Yakimali’s Gift by Linda Covella
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Length: Full Length (226 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
It’s 1775 in Mexico, New Spain, and 15-year-old Fernanda Marquina, half Spanish and half Pima Indian, can’t seem to live up to her mother’s expectations or fit into the limited female roles of her culture. A tragic accident sets her on a course for the adventure she longed for but at a greater cost than she could ever have imagined. With her family, Fernanda joins Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic colonization expedition to California. On the arduous four month journey, Fernanda will find not only romance, but she’ll discover truths that will change the way she sees her ancestry, her family, and herself.
There might be a better life out there waiting for her if Fernanda is brave enough to seek it out.
This story had one of the most interesting premises I’ve seen so far in 2015. Imagine riding a horse from Mexico to Spain through dangerous territory with a group that includes pregnant women, elderly people, and many young children. The journey would have been difficult for young, healthy adults because of how long it was and how many things can go terribly wrong under those circumstances. Watching this particular group of wanderers attempt to survive so many hazards was nothing short of mesmerizing. I found it almost impossible to tear my eyes away from the page because I was so eager to find out what would happen next. Due to this I ended up finishing it much faster than I normally would for a book of this length!
My only criticism has to do with how the love triangle was handled. The two young men who were interested in Fernanda weren’t given equal opportunities to show the audience why they would be a good match for her. I would have really liked to see them both have roughly the same number of flaws and strengths so that I could have felt more conflicted about who she should be with.
I enjoyed seeing how Fernanda changed as a result of her experiences. Her character development not only made sense based on what happened to her, it fit her personality nicely as well. Even the biggest changes in her were easy to understand because they were so closely tailored to what she’d already seen in her short lifetime as well as who she was as an individual.
It took me a long time to choose an age recommendation for this tale. Many of the scenes felt like they were written for a middle school aged audience because how much time Fernanda spent disagreeing with her siblings and trying to figure out why the adults around her said and did certain things. The romantic subplot and the main character’s conversations with her friends about love and sex were definitely intended for teenagers, though, so I ended up rounding up my original suggestion by a few years.
Yakimali’s Gift was a fascinating glimpse of a part of history that isn’t that well known. I’d recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about how Juan Bautista de Anza and his followers explored and settled in California.